Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Three Weeks After Surgery

Take a couple of days and It's been three weeks since surgery. Since the beginning of this week, the only thing I've been able to really focus on is prepping for the medieval play my class will start working on in six days, Good Masters, Sweet Ladies, Voices From a Medieval Village.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hello From Recovery

Click on the pic

This short video was shown to my class today by my substitute, Shereen. At least I hope it was; that was the plan, but I haven't heard from her today. She is a really good person to have teaching my class, but communication is not her strong suit.

I enjoyed putting together this piece together, shot it on my digital camera, and edited a little on iMovie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two Weeks After Surgery

Two weeks since I went under the robot scalpels and I'm feeling pretty good. Improvements in the past week include ability to sit without discomfort, and only occasionally being bothered by pain from the incision sites.

The erection issue is coming along.

I'm still not able to fully control my peeing, but I am now allowed to do kegels to strengthen those sphincters. I've finally come around to seeing that the disposable diapers I have to wear are actually kind of a fashion plus with their contrast in textures and transparency. In addition, I get what looks like a pretty big package. So, there's an upside right there, but because of the incontinence that's especially evident when I go for a walk, I have, unfortunately, cut back on that exercise...

It's a beautiful, if chilly, day. Using the toy trebuchet BFF gave me, I've been launching gravel at targets in the garden.

And I've been planning our summer vacation in Mexico.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Last summer I wrote a poem, "Incontinence as Metaphor." Yesterday, I experienced incontinence as a bladder reality, and it was not pleasant.

The incontinant feels a warm loosening at the opening of the urethra to signal his lack of control. With repetition, this feeling is joined by a spreading wetness and warmth within the disposable diaper. Walking becomes difficult as one imagines oneself a large baby with one of those leaden loads, emitting that cloyingly sweet acidic smell familiar to all parents.

In the incontinant, this does encourage empathy for babies and new parents, but on a more immediate physical plane, it also results in great discomfort, especially when one is five cock-clutching blocks from home.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The rain for the past couple of months has felt biblical, and not in a good way. Unfortunately the saturating gray pall has also been accompanied by wind, and temperatures ten degrees below normal...Jesus, it's wearing.

But at least we have flowers, like this lilac in our back yard.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One Week After Surgery - Good News

All that cancer they found in February is gone! It took up the space of about 4 pennies, nestled inside a walnut-sized prostate gland. All gone now, along with the two seminal vesicles. Picture a fleshy bulb with two pigtails suspended above.

Clean margins.

The effect is that I can't make any more sperm, nor as much cum, as before. The docs saved most of the erection nerves, though, so there's still that. Which is a lot.

And, thank God, no more cancer.

Prescription: take antibiotics for three days to prevent bladder infection; over the next week, wean off mild pain medication; walk for exercise; wear disposable diaper to contain leakage; take it easy, like no kegels for the next two weeks, and no lifting or sex for five.

They gave me a chart to keep track off the number of diapers or pads used each day, suggesting it might take 6-9 months before I didn't need them anymore. Jesus! I'm hoping for less than three.

As far as getting it up, Viagra is prescribed, or using a vacuum pump (like the guy I've been corresponding with), but that's still down the road a bit.

The stitches will come out on their own.

I'll have a PSA test in a couple of months, a follow-up with the surgeon in three.

As to the other issue I was concerned about coming into this appointment:

Taking out the catheter was easier, and less painful than I had imagined. The procedure: the nurse cuts the catheter tube just above the shunt to the bladder's balloon. She injects 250mL of saline solution into the tube, thus into my bladder. While I try to hold this in, she deflates the balloon through the shunt. I get set over a basin as she counts to 3. On 2, I take a deep breath, and on 3 I let it out, along with the pee, as she simultaneously jerks out the tube and balloon. Whoa!

(They have a monitor measuring the flow rate to assess the strength of my bladder muscles. Mine looks pretty strong.)

During this first week of recovery, my perceptive wife reminds me that what I call being lazy is what many people mean by healing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Tomorrow will be a week since surgery. I got a two-fer, and a gift, since the doc discovered and repaired a surprisingly large hernia in my gut before taking out the prostate.

My dear wife and I had taken the bus to the hospital that day, and then walked two blocks in a heavy rain. We sat together and made the same kinds of jokes and avowals of support, in the same room where I had waited with her, nearly four years earlier, for her mastectomy. So, deja vu from both points of view.

A short, broad and friendly Hispanic man, who introduced himself as "RJ," wheeled me into the ward where people undress and wait. Sweet wife stays right by my side.

On reflection, it's odd how I lay there feeling, for all intents and purposes, perfectly healthy, yet completely resigned to the scalpel. I had totally--with alacrity, even--accepted the medical diagnosis, as well as the prescribed removal of the infected body parts.

I had found out only a week earlier that the surgery had been rescheduled, from first thing in the morning to sometime around noon because my surgeon was assisting in a kidney operation. I figure that's because he's such a deft guy with the DaVinci (which is the brand name (?!) of the robotic hardware and software used to perform both surgeries).

We waited an overlong time in that taking-off-your-clothes room, to finally be told by a concerned and friendly nurse, an attractive redhead, that the kidney surgery was lasting longer than anticipated, so the doc would be delayed at least another hour. BFF was famished, so we agreed she'd go to the hospital cafe for lunch.

Of course, it wasn't long after she left that a new nurse came and whisked me upstairs to the ward where they take away your robe as you lay down on a gurney, waiting for the team to come greet you.

The friendly-faced operating room nurse arrived to reassure me that she and the doc have done a thousand of these surgeries, and everything will be OK. At that point, my concerned and mildly chagrined wife is shown in as this other attractive woman, who will be all over my body in another hour, says goodbye, and a laconic, older than expected, and still strangely attractive, anesthesiologist hooks me up to an intravenous drip as he tells me about the cocktail of knockout drugs he will be administering. Barely an ouch.

And then, The Guy Himself. I'd seen him at a computer station a few minutes earlier as I went to the bathroom (possibly entering his charges for the kidney op), but I didn't exist for him them. Now, though, I was the sole object of his attention.

The Guy Himself is average height, built solidly, in his mid-forties, face tanned with freckles. He exudes such gravitas, I am now completely confident of a favorable outcome, whatever the situation. And as a bonus for the patient, Himself had this very same procedure to remove his own prostate a couple of years ago; so he was able to share stories with me of his own recovery in a brief, frank, yet encouraging manner. I'm totally psyched.

We shake hands and he gives me a rare, for him, and reassuring smile. Not long after that another friendly and attractive middle-aged nurse comes to take me away (was it the rose-colored glasses, my helpless state, or were these women all, really, so good looking?).

My dear wife and I exchange our love, as we always do when we part.

I am wheeled into the nearby operating room, which I noticed was smaller (about as big as a medium-sized living room) and more crowded with equipment and purposeful professionals than I had expected. It was quiet though; the lighting seemed dim, and the ceiling low.

Two scrubs were prepping some monitors. The robot control console--the DaVinci--was in one corner, and the operating cart in another, with its three or four robotic arms articulated like a praying mantis, their business ends covered with clear plastic bags.

I chatted with the assisting surgeon (a smooth and attractive (!) Chicagoan of Asian descent who had spent an hour talking me through this process several weeks ago) as he, the anesthesiologist and a new nurse moved me off the gurney and strapped my legs down on two rectangular foam blocks that were covered with a shiny black plastic skin, and scissored off a larger, square block of tan-colored foam for my corpus. The latter was stained the blood-orange of iodine.

I looked up at the array of multi-bulbed lights, not yet fully lit. I felt a little buzzing in my blood, and asked the anesthesiologist if he had started the juice. Affirmative. That's all I remember until about four hours later.

I must have started thrashing, trying to remove tubes, whatever, as I groggily came to, because I have a vague recollection of several people moving to restrain me. For the next twelve hours, my greatest discomfort was from where I had scratched my cornea during that brief struggle. My wife told me that when she saw me a little later, up in my room, she was saddened to see that my arms were in restraints.

I had the sweetest nurse--Jenn--that first night. Maybe you always fall a little in love with the ones who give you morphine. Jenn checked in often, but was very quiet so as not to disturb me. If she heard that I was awake; she offered me a couple of Tylenol and a tab of oxycodone about every three hours.

The pain now is pretty manageable without all that. I'm still taking some though, most consistently in the evening, but am weaning off.

I was dismissed about noon the day after surgery after my vitals checked out, no infections found, and I proved I could eat without getting nauseous, and walk without getting dizzy.

The catheter is more of a bother than a pain. After realizing the strap-on bag filled up in less than a couple of hours (it sprayed urine all over my sweats, slippers and the bathroom floor when I first tried to empty it), I've been carrying around the nighttime bag all week. Taking a dump is an awkward, unpleasant, and time-consuming task, graphically described here in a poem.

My uniform all week has been a robe over loose-fitting shorts and a t-shirt. The catheter bag hooks conveniently on the robe's pocket. I've walked around the house a fair amount, but because of the weather, haven't done much more than duck my head outside, although today I cut some lilacs to give my sweetie for Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Which Medicine Doesn't Belong in This Picture?

Answer: There are several ways to look at this. All the medications except the one on the right (Oxycodone) are over-the-counter. On the other hand, all except the one in front (stool softener) are directly for pain relief. Of course, in a larger sense they all belong, as they work together to keep me as comfortable as possible.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Checked Out

No blood in urine? Check

No infection at incisions? Check

Manageable pain? Check

Can eat solid food without nausea? Check

Can walk without dizziness? Check

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, about 18 hours after completion of surgery, I am dismissed from the hospital. Wheeled to the front door by a garrulous Jamaican immigrant, accompanied by my dear wife. She and I try to sleep during the bumpy 20 minute trip home; the only sound from within the taxi is the driver murmuring in Farsi on his phone.

Shortly after tucking in to my nest on the couch, my sweet daughters arrive with flowers and cupcake. It's an unusual occasion for them to see me laid up like this, and they express this realization in very different ways, one with barely suppressed tears, the other with awkward laughter.

After they leave, and before a needed nap, I notice the bag of urine strapped to my leg is full almost to bursting. Over the toilet, as I fumble with the bag's spigot, the pee sprays out uncontrollably, over my sweatpants, slippers and floor. Ugh.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pre-Surgery Prep

Early this afternoon I had my last solid food until after the surgery--sushi. Then, several hours later I chugged a small bottle of Magnesium Citrate, well-chilled.

I filled the in-between time by running up to Best Buy and getting a new modem for the house. This afternoon, the old one sputtered to the end of its five-year-old line, according to Qwest tech support.

I have no way to prove it, but believe I might give off a disruptive electrical charge that is especially evident during times of stress. For example, back in December, just after I got news that Mom was dying, our power went out, for no apparent reason. I think that's what happened to the old modem.

Back online, eating green jello now, appetizer for my chicken broth dinner. To be followed by red jello dessert, and then the first of two enemas. That joy broken up by a Chlorhexidine Gluconate sponge bath.

After midnight, "nothing further by mouth," advises my patient information sheet.